by Kwame Bediako
Kwame Bediako is one of the most significant contemporary voices in African evangelical theology. Richly textured, in touch with history, culture, theology and missiology, his perceptive insights are a necessity in engaging in theologizing in the African context.
Orbis Books, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0302, 2004, 124 pages, $18.00.
—Reviewed by A. Scott Moreau, professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.
Kwame Bediako is one of the most significant contemporary voices in African evangelical theology. Richly textured, in touch with history, culture, theology and missiology, his perceptive insights are a necessity in engaging in theologizing in the African context. While this collection of essays is a reprint edition, the previous publication, a joint venture of Editions Clé (Cameroon) and Regnum Africa (Ghana), was primarily intended to make Bediako’s thinking available in Africa and Europe.
The book is split into three sections. The first examines the African experience of Jesus. Here Bediako attends to the theology of the everyday life of ordinary Africans rather than the formal doctrine of theologians. Discussion includes reflections on ancestral beliefs and practices and encounters with other religions that characterize everyday life in Africa.
The second section deals with theology and culture through the lens of primal religions, which for most Africans still remains alive in both thought and practice. Bediako looks to early Church fathers, as the issues they faced parallel what the church in Africa faces today. He also explores the implications of the translatability of the faith.
The final section focuses on Africa and the history of Christianity, where the significance of the massive growth of the African church during the twentieth century is examined. Africa is no longer on the margins, but at the center of the scope of the church. Bediako discusses the impact this has had on politics and political processes throughout the continent. He also discusses possible implications of this movement for churches in the rest of the world.
Bediako’s wide-ranging intellect and interests are apparent. While the focus is on Christ and the issues of culture and theology, he deals with other material such as early Church fathers, contemporary African scholarship and traditional poetry. Though only 120 pages, the writing is dense and the ideas, while clearly presented, run such a large intellectual range that the careful, attentive reader will be rewarded. This is a book for meditation and reflection rather than for action.
This book also challenges. Bediako asserts that “theological affirmations about Christ are meaningful ultimately, not in terms of what Christians say, but in terms of what persons of other faiths understand those affirmations to imply for them” (37). This provides a starting point for apologetic discussion that is more challenging than simply establishing truth claims. His approach takes context seriously, and his focus on the impact of our truth claims rather than their biblical legitimacy is challenging to traditional evangelical apologetics.
Check these titles:
Bediako, Kwame. 1992. Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa. Oxford: Regnum Books.
______. 1996. Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of Non-Western Religion. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
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